Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My assistant cannot find anything. I give her a task to complete that includes filing materials or simply putting things away. When I ask for them later, she looks around dumbfounded and never finds them. I then go to look for the items and, voila, there they are.

This is so frustrating. I have suggested systems that she can use, including labeling things so it's clear where they go, yet she never can find anything. When I interviewed her, I made it clear that organization was a big part of her job. She led me to believe she could do it.

We're at the three-month point. Do I keep her or cut my losses? -- At Wit's End, Washington, D.C.

DEAR AT WIT'S END: Evaluate your assistant on all that she does well and poorly. Be as thorough as possible regarding the tasks you need her to fulfill. If the pros outweigh the cons, keep her and continue to support her in improving her skills. If her skills do not meet your needs, let her go. Be sure to tell her why so that she can grow.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I read your column every day. Today it made my blood boil. It involved a reader who was complaining about moochers on government programs. You responded that no one should assume that someone -- parent, friend or the government -- will take care of them forever.

You are both ignorant about this matter. I have a problem with people who pump out kids and don't work and live off the government because they are lazy. I am dependent on the government, but I am not lazy, and I have no kids. I am 33 and disabled; I will never be independent. It's not my choice. It's my reality. I work two hours, four days a week. I'm trying to do what I can, but I will never be able to support myself. I am not going to get better, only worse.

Don't lump everyone who is dependent on government aid into one category. Some people choose not to support themselves. Others wish they could. There is a difference. -- Offended, Des Moines, Iowa

DEAR OFFENDED: The last thing I intended to do was to offend you or anyone else on government assistance.

The topic of government aid is debated often on many points, including the one you and the original writer made about "moochers." My position is fairly straightforward. I know there are well-meaning people who, for a variety of reasons, need and should receive government support to live. Like you, many such people are disabled or ill.

I also believe that no matter how great the need, nothing is promised forever. When governments have gone into economic crisis, cuts have occurred that imperiled people on public assistance. Even the most deserving may experience a loss of support through no fault of their own. That, in part, is what I was getting at in saying that nothing is promised forever.

What's great about your writing in to share your story is that someone may read it and see that there are decent, hard-working people out there who need and receive support.